Software May Be Misused for Disciplinary Purposes; Parents Not Adequately Informed
Washington (March 30, 2022) – United States Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today released the findings of the October 2021investigation they opened into four educational technology companies — Gaggle.net, Bark Technologies, GoGuardian, and Securly Inc. — regarding their use of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic systems to monitor students’ online activity. The senators sought to determine whether these products were surveilling students inappropriately, compounding racial disparities in school discipline, and draining resources from more effective student supports. Their investigation confirms the need for federal action to protect students’ civil rights, safety, and privacy.
Warren and Markey’s 14-page report, is the first Congressional investigation of the impacts of the use of these student monitoring tools, which have become increasingly prevalent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It finds that:
The senators concluded with the following recommendations: “Absent federal action, these surveillance products may continue to put students’ civil rights, safety, and privacy at risk. Given these risks, the federal government should seek methods to track the potential impacts of student surveillance technology on students in protected classes, clarify the definition of ‘monitoring the online activities’ as mentioned in CIPA, and work to ensure that products used by schools maintain student safety and privacy.”
This report builds on Senator Warren’s concerns about algorithmic bias disproportionately affecting communities of color in the financial sector and health care systems. Senators Warren and Markey previously sent a letter to Zoom asking about its student safety and privacy protections during the pandemic and signed onto a letter about student privacy and racial bias in exam-proctoring software.